57: Braver than Superman

57: Braver than Superman

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Braver than Superman

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.

~Ambrose Redmoon

When I was a shy, skinny little girl, I loved going to the movies and watching my hero, Superman, fight the villains. As much as I loved Superman, I knew Superman didn’t need to be brave because he was already tall and strong, a man of steel who could fly and run faster than a train. Even bullets bounced off of him. Superman had nothing to fear but Kryptonite.

On the other hand, I was a small nine-year-old who was afraid of my mother, my fourth grade teacher and the class bully Ernest Evans, who stole my lunch and hit me every chance he got.

When I grew up, I was still afraid of my mother, my boss and bullies.

I read books about courageous women who risked their lives sailing around the world, going to the Arctic, living in the jungle with gorillas and climbing Mt. Everest.

It took all the courage I had to take a bus to the mall, eat at a restaurant alone or to wear the color red.

My greatest fear was failure. What if I tried to do something and I failed? What if people laughed at me? What if I made a fool of myself?

I was such a late bloomer that I almost never bloomed at all. For years I believed a “super” man was going to save me, but I finally realized that I wasn’t Lois Lane and I’d have to save myself.

It doesn’t take courage to run a race you know you’ll win. It takes courage to run a race you know you will lose.

I would run the race, take the chance.

I started doing things I was afraid to do. If I failed, then I would fail publicly and spectacularly. If I came in last, well, in every race someone has to be first and someone has to be last — and I’d rather be last than a spectator on the sidelines. You only fail if you don’t have the courage to try.

I stopped wearing beige and started wearing red.

I always wanted to be an artist and have my own gallery. So I rented a gallery and filled it with my paintings. The first week, only two people came into the gallery and they laughed at my paintings. The second week, a woman offered me twenty dollars for the frame on one of my paintings. She didn’t want the picture, only the frame. The third week, I closed the gallery. I failed and I didn’t die. My failure wasn’t on the six o’clock news. I survived.

A year later I tried again. I painted better paintings and the gallery was in a better location. I sold eighty of my paintings the first month. I used the money to go to Australia by myself. I rode a camel and got bitten by a wombat. It was fantastic! I’d been afraid to take a bus to the mall and now I’d flown halfway around the world alone.

I’d always wanted to travel but I’d never wanted to travel alone. I realized I couldn’t sit at home waiting for a travelling companion to appear. If I wanted to see the world, I’d have to do it alone.

Each success was a victory that gave me courage to aim higher, try harder and do more. Each failure made me stronger.

I stopped saying “no” to things outside my comfort zone and started saying “YES!” to life.

If someone asked for volunteers, my hand was the first one up. I volunteered to work in a mission in New Mexico for three months. I loved it so much I stayed two years.

I went to a rodeo and they asked for people to volunteer to ride wild burros in a race. Never mind I was twice as old as the other riders, never mind I couldn’t control my burro and he went in circles and even backwards at one point. Yes, I came in last, but how many women my age can say they’ve ridden a wild burro in a rodeo?

I always wanted to learn to speak a different language and I took classes at the community college. I tried to learn Italian, Japanese, German and Spanish. I discovered I’m very bad at languages, but now I can say “hello” and “goodbye” and count to ten in four other languages.

I rode an elephant at a circus and drove a stagecoach at an Old West frontier town. I spent three weeks panning for gold in Colorado and found thirty-six dollars’ worth. That meant I earned about seven cents an hour panning for gold. It didn’t matter. I was camping in the high Rockies, sleeping under the stars and listening to coyotes howl at the moon.

I was having adventures without the help, approval or companionship of anyone.

I have some very good friends, but they are sensible, cautious, careful and saving for their retirement. They aren’t interested in riding wild burros (what if you break a hip?) or sleeping in the woods (what if a bear eats you?) or knowing how to count to ten in four languages.

They shake their heads and say, “You are so strong and independent. I’d never have the nerve to do the things you do. You are so brave.”

“I’m braver than Superman,” I say with a smile.

Do I have regrets? Of course. Life hasn’t been easy for me. Many times it has been a struggle for survival. Do I get lonely? Sometimes, but nothing is lonelier than being with the wrong person.

I’ve had heartbreaking, humiliating failures and I’ve had great victories. When all is said and done, I want to feel I’ve lived the fullest life possible.

I grew up on the Kansas plains and I’ve had a lifelong fear of water, and I never learned to swim.

Someone just asked me if I’d like to go snorkeling in Hawaii next month. I said “YES!”

I don’t want to live a timid, fearful life and I refuse to “be careful.”

I’m running the race!

~April Knight

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